Rape: What happens after

Rebecca Glass volunteers at a rape crisis center and works closely with victims in the immediate aftermath of rape. Given all the rape allegations on the national stage, and, unfortunately, all the misinformation and badly-drawn conclusions by those with no experience in the field, Rebecca offered to take us through what she sees on a regular basis, including what a rape kit is and how it works. This is important information for everyone to know, regardless of your gender or whether you think you’ll ever been in a post-rape exam. Knowledge is power, the more you know, and all that good rot. Huge thanks to Rebecca for sharing her experience and expertise with us!

Rape kitBy Rebecca Glass

When you volunteer as an ER advocate for survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence, you learn a few things. This is my attempt to clear up some of the misconceptions people might have about sexual assault exams/rape kits, and the behaviors of survivors.

  1. Every survivor is different.

My survivors cross racial, age, socioeconomic, and disability lines. Many of my survivors were assaulted by someone they knew; some have memory lapses as a result of likely being drugged and no recollection of their assailant. Some survivors come to the ED on their own, some come with a friend, and some have come with relatives.

In my state, a survivor who is thirteen years or older can choose whether or not to report an assault to the police. Some of my survivors have done so, some chose not to, and some were unsure at the time of the exam if they wanted to or not.

Some survivors have no further contact with their assaulters, but as in many cases a sexual assault is perpetrated by someone the survivor knows, often times I will have a survivor asking me that “he’s trying to call/text me, what do I do?” Also, some assailants have used verbal threats to try and scare a survivor from reporting the crime.

  1. As every survivor is different, so is everyone’s coping mechanism.

Some survivors cry, some get angry, some remain relatively calm. Some survivors know exactly what they want (for example, the prophylactic medications but no forensic exam or police), while others are unaware of what’s involved in a sexual assault exam. Other survivors can be indecisive and feel overwhelmed by the information presented. Each step of the exam is done with the survivor’s consent, so while some make it through the whole exam, others have to stop at a certain point.

  1. The forensic exam is invasive and intense.

The “rape kit”, or forensic exam done to collect forensic evidence, generally starts relatively un-invasive with oral and buccal (cheek) swabs, and then proceeds to get more invasive, including photos of the genital area, a speculum exam and, if indicated, anal swabs. While a lot of what you see on Law and Order SVU is dramatized and exaggerated, it is fairly representative when it comes to the exam procedure. Or, at least, it was; I stopped watching after Chris Meloni left…

By the way, prophlyaxis — the drugs taken to prevent STDs and HIV/AIDS as well as pregnancy, if indicated, is no fun. The combination of antibiotics usually comes with a dose of anti-nausea medicine, and the HIV medication, while effective, has to be taken for 28 days, even though the risk of catching HIV is extremely small. The combination of medications can leave a survivor feeling nauseous and have other, unpleasant, side effects.

  1. The exam has a time limit, is dependent on a number of factors, and will not always yield DNA.

Generally, there’s a 96-hour time limit to collect forensic evidence, and the closer you get to that limit, the more degraded the evidence becomes. For a survivor’s best chance at evidence collection, they would need to arrive at the ER as soon after the assault as possible, and not have showered, bathed, brushed teeth, eaten anything, changed clothes, or, if wearing one, pantyliner or maxi pad. As many survivors either aren’t sure what they want to do right after the assault or are unconscious because of being drugged, there’s often some time that’s elapsed. Even if the exam is done promptly and correctly, there’s no guarantee DNA will be found.

Non-blood evidence can be stored in a hospital, but most hospitals don’t keep kits outside the six month-year window; thus a survivor can choose to have a kit done within the 96-hour window but decide to report the crime to police weeks or months later.

  1. In my state, a kit to test for drug-induced raped only gets processed if the crime is reported to police.

Testing for rohipnol and like drugs is expensive, and many cities and states have a backlog. A significant issue arises because these kits are only good for 30 days, and thus a survivor has a much smaller window to make a decision to report the crime or not.

  1. Speaking of the police, they’re trained to solve crimes, not to be compassionate.

Police interaction can be brusque and intimidating for survivors. Yes, I’ve seen detectives ask questions about what the survivor was wearing, and questions meant to get as many intimate details about the assault as possible. Sometimes a survivor is ready and willing to cooperate fully, other times I’ve had survivors have flashback and anxiety attacks. The police are trying to do a difficult job – catching the perpetrator – in the best way that they can, but it doesn’t always make it easy for the survivors.

Sometimes a survivor will withdraw a complaint—this doesn’t necessarily mean that the assault didn’t happen; it often times means that the survivor doesn’t feel ready to cope with an investigation. The drawback is that if a survivor decides to refile a complaint, his or her credibility as a witness is significantly damaged.

What I’ve detailed here doesn’t describe the whole “after” for a survivor of sexual assault; it just describes the few hours that the survivor spends in the ER. The actual healing process can take much longer—how much depends on the survivor, the assault, whether the police were involved, and a whole host of other factors. Yes, counseling services do exist, but they are often overwhelmed and underfunded — so if there’s a program in your area, and you’d like to help survivors of sexual violence, please consider supporting it in any way you can!

You can follow Rebecca on Twitter @rebeccapbp.

Five things the Chicago Bears need to know about domestic violence

Today, much to the dismay of many fans, the Chicago Bears signed Ray McDonald to a one-year contract. McDonald has been arrested repeatedly in the last 5 years: for a DUI, for a failure to show up in court, for one of two domestic violence incidents at his home in 2014, and for a sexual assault allegation last December.

NFLdomesticThe Bears were quick today to assure fans they investigated McDonald’s background before they chose to sign him. Unfortunately, when it comes to looking into Ray McDonald’s past, the Bears did everything wrong. Here are five things I’d wished the Bears had known before they made the decision to sign McDonald:

1. No charges does not mean a player is innocent or has been exonerated: According to the FBI, even when police make an arrest during a domestic violence incident, the case is dropped 70 percent of the time. There’s one reason for this above all others: Victims routinely refuse to cooperate with authorities in domestic violence cases.

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Cubs, Rooftops make their final stand

For all intents and purposes, it was high noon yesterday in U.S. District Judge Virginia Kendall’s courtroom. After years of posturing, arguing, and attempted negotiations on both sides, the Chicago Cubs and the owner of two rooftops laid their cards on the table.  Eleven years after the Cubs entered into an extremely short-sighted revenue-sharing contract with the rooftops, the saga may finally be coming to a close.

jumbotronYesterday, both parties argued their cases in front of Judge Kendall for nearly 7 hours, though no ruling from the judge came at the end of the day, and there’s no word so far on when the Judge could hand down a ruling. But with Opening Night two weeks away, and the Cubs vowing to have at least one of the video boards in place by Opening Night, it’s likely, though not definite, that the injunction portion of case will be decided by then.

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Mo’ne Davis is a terrific kid, but Blooomsburg University should stick to their guns

Mo’Ne Davis is, by all accounts, an amazing young woman with a thunderbolt for an arm and an even bigger heart. Unfortunately, being a girl in the world of sports makes her as much of a target as anyone else, believe it or not.

Over the weekend, the news broke that, in response to the making of a Disney movie about Davis’ life, a baseball player at Bloomsburg University had this to say:


In case you missed it, the word blocked out is “slut.” And that’s presumably his mother in the photo directly above the tweet where he called a 13-year old child a “slut.” Well done, young sir. You’ve managed the Twitter trifecta: a viral tweet shaming a child in front of your mother. The rest of America can only aspire to such feats.

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Chicago Cubs Friday: Rizzo on Bryant, Maddon on Baez

If you’ve read, listened to, watched or eaten anything related to the Chicago Cubs in the last week, you may know something about a situation involving Kris Bryant and service time. In case you somehow missed all of the situation, read Kris-BryantJulie’s piece from earlier this week about the decline of Chicago sports writing in relation to the Bryant affair.

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Meanwhile, Mike Florio is extremely concerned about all-you anti-football types

As if sports hasn’t had a bad enough morning, with two awful columns by Rick Morrissey and Mike North, we also had to witness Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio totally melting down over Chris Borland’s decision to retire from the NFL over safety concerns.

It started innocently, though somewhat defensively, enough.


Continue reading Meanwhile, Mike Florio is extremely concerned about all-you anti-football types

Chicago deserves better sportswriters (yes, this is about Kris Bryant)

I am easily distracted.  I tweet, watch tv, and read all at the same time. I have trouble looking someone in the eye while they tell a long, boring story. If there’s an annoying noise happening, I can’t concentrate on anything until it stops.

bryantWhich brings me to some of the sportswriters in this town and their awful, terrible, no good, very bad takes on the Cubs and the Kris Bryant situation.

I know, I know. About a thousand articles have been written about WHY it’s to the Cubs’ long-term advantage to leave Kris Bryant in Iowa for the first three weeks of the season. If you need to catch up, here are a couple of good explanations by Bruce Miles and Evan Altman. Basically, it boils down to this:

“A year of service time is equal to 172 days, and there are normally around 183 total days in the major-league calendar,” writes author Craig Edwards. “This means that if a team wants to keep a prospect from accruing a full year of service time, they simply need to leave that player in the minors for around 15-20 days out of the entire season.”

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Chicago Cubs Friday: The Ubiquity of Alcantara, Renteria’s Exile, and Schwarber on Bryant

When the Chicago Cubs traded for center fielder Dexter Fowler, it left Arismendy Alcantara without a definite spot in the lineup. There was some good in his 70 MLB games last season (10 home runs, 11 doubles, 2 triples, 8 stolen bases) and noid-CAN_Ubiquitoussome bad (.205 batting average, 93 strikeouts in 300 plate appearances). Though a natural shortstop, he played second base and center field when promoted, which gives Joe Maddon a realm of possibilities when deciding where to play young Arismendy.

“Ubiquitous,” Joe Maddon said, drawing out the syllables when a reporter mentioned Arismendy Alcantara and where the Cubs might play their infielder/outfielder with a combination of power and speed.

“I love that word,” Maddon said. “You just gave me the opportunity. That’s all I learned in economics class at Lafayette. Ubiquitous. It’s a great word.”

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Chicago Cubs Wednesday: Mental Skills, Manny’s Back, and Starlin Might Need a Realtor

When I played basketball in middle and high school I had a particular coach who made us do exercises where we sat and visualized ourselves making shots, free

This may or may not be a part of the new mental skills program
This may or may not be a part of the new mental skills program

throws, etc. The idea was that if we trained our minds to see it happening, our bodies would go with the flow. I mostly sat at the end of the bench, rendering most of my visualizations moot. But I still remember those exercises. The Chicago Cubs announced yesterday the creation of a mental skills program, which will likely involve more than visualizing successful free throw attempts.

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Chicago Cubs Monday: Lineup Wackiness And Three Catchers?

Throughout the years, I’ve been annoyed by many things the St. Louis Cardinals have done. One such thing that always had me scratching my head was when Tony LaRussa would have his starting pitcher bat eighth instead of ninth. I didn’t really understand any advanced metrics at that point, so I’m not sure what the reasoning for it was.

The thought of pitchers batting made me think of Bartolo Colon's adventures last season
The thought of pitchers batting made me think of Bartolo Colon’s adventures last season

I still don’t have a firm grasp on advanced metrics, though I know a bit more today than I did then, and I’m willing to give a new look at things deemed outside the realm of conventional wisdom. I’m also pretty much willing to go wherever Joe Maddon wants to take me these days. One of those places is to a land where the Chicago Cubs starting pitcher might bat eighth.

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